Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

June 11, 2013

Lion and the Lamb: When schools go beyond the three Rs

By Ted Braun
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE — The three Rs, reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic, have always been at the foundation of education in Cumberland County. Recently, however, a fourth R has been added — religion. In permission was granted representatives of The Gideons International to distribute Bibles to fifth-graders in the Brown Elementary School in Crossville, and this took place April 11.

The purpose of the Gideons is expressed in their official statement: “The mission of The Gideons International is to win the lost for Christ, and our unique method is the distribution of Bibles and New Testaments in selected streams of life.” “Having God’s word can lead people to faith in Christ.”

For middle and high school students, the Gideons have a pocket-size edition of the New Testament, including the Psalms and Proverbs, in the New King James Version. The small print of the biblical text is not very user-friendly, but larger print is used in the introductory remarks that provide the context for what appears in the text.

This is a sample of the introductory remarks: “The Bible contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you.

“It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword, and the Christian’s charter. Here Paradise is restored, Heaven opened, and the gates of hell disclosed.”

In the concluding section, there are selected biblical verses under the headings of “God Loves You,” “All Are Sinners,” “God’s Remedy for Sin,” and “All May Be Saved Now.” Then, under the heading “My Decision to Receive Christ As My Savior,” there is a place for the student to sign his or her name, and the date. This is followed by two more headings: “Seeking a Church” and some additional biblical verses under the heading “Assurance As a Believer.”

It is obvious from this that the fourth ‘R’ has become an important focus to the Cumberland County Board of Education, and why the American Civil Liberties Union has taken an interest in this new development of Bible distribution in a school classroom during school hours. No doubt Americans United for Separation of Church and State will be another group taking an interest in this.

The Board of Education may want to include another ‘R’ to think about at its next meeting:  reconsideration.

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This column is sponsored by Cumberland Countians for Peace and Justice and dedicated by the local writers to the theme that the lion and the lamb can and must learn to live together and grow in their relationship toward one another to ensure a better world. Opinions expressed in “Lion and the Lamb” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. For more information, contact Ted Braun, editor, at 277-5135.